You’ve seen them at the beach, usually dumpy-looking, older men with what looks like flying saucers at the end of long poles. Their devices are metal detectors and their goal is to find a hidden treasure left behind in the shifting sands.
My 2-year-old golden retriever Murphy has no such device — only his nose and teeth. But there’s no question he’s a master scavenger. As often as not, when I take Murphy on a walk at our nearby conservation land, he disappears into the woods along the trail. Sometimes he deigns to come after several sharp calls of “Murphy, come.” But sometimes he vanishes. That’s my clue to retrace my steps and find him staring, absolutely perplexed, at a newfound treasure — a muddy, dog-tattered tennis ball.
There’s a reason for Murphy’s perplexity. He lives with a tennis ball between his teeth. So when he finds a second by trailside he’s absolutely flummoxed. If I drop tennis ball A to pick up tennis ball B, what do I do with tennis ball A? And if I leave tennis ball B behind, what’s the point of finding treasure anyway?
He has a point, though it’s one that sometimes leaves me perilously close to missing a class. My solution is simple. I pick up one tennis ball, Murphy picks up the other, and all around our circular loop he runs as fast as his somewhat rotund body allows, retrieving first one ball then, after dropping the first at my feet, retrieving the other, and so forth.
This routine has worked so well that I must have a dozen or more thoroughly disgusting tennis balls on the floor of my car and in cans on our sun porch.
I’m wondering. If I bought Murphy a metal detector, might he bring back something worth keeping?